Ukele tiptoed across the hall to the galley, a pointless gesture because there was, at present, no one to see her and she was about as unobtrusive as an ogre in a gnome village in any case. She was hoping to get a peek at the handsome stranger, Drale, maybe find out if he was as hairy as Feruzi’s husband under all the silly cloth these people insisted on wearing. Didn’t they know it was hot? They sweated and turned read and even blistered up, you would think they would notice at some point. Truly, no foreigner had any sense.
There was no door to the galley, only a flap of rough cloth that Ukele twitched aside and there was Drale, bare to the waist in the linen knee-pants most sailors wore. He was a bit fuzzy, to be sure, but the deep golden tan on his face and arms did not extend to his chest and the skin was a distressing pasty white. Disappointing. Forgetting herself, Ukele clucked her tongue.
“Who’s there?” Drale demanded, reaching instantly for a weapon. “Vanenza?” That was the Bonaventure’s new chaplain, who provided healing and also such luxuries as purified bathwater.
“No, it is Ukele!” she announced, sweeping the cloth aside and stepping into the room. She smiled and posed—one leg forward, hand on opposite hip, chest outthrust—and was rewarded by the pleased, appraising look she knew so well.
“Well, hello again, my pretty. Did you come to keep me company?”
“You seem about the only interesting person in this dreadful tub.” Ukele hopped up on the table, swinging her legs girlishly while she chewed a fingernail. “I heard them call you Captain, do you have your own ship?”
Drale gave a rueful chuckle. “Not any more. A temporary setback I intend to rectify immediately.”
“Feruzi’s Captain has a bunch of ships. Maybe he’ll give you one.”
“No, the other one. Whatshisname, Chopper. We’re going to his island.”
“Sounds like a wealthy man.”
Ukele shrugged. “I suppose. He’s some kind of Pirate Lord, now. Feruzi too, but she doesn’t seem to think much of it.” Sniff. “People are always giving her things. You’d think she would appreciate them more.”
Drale rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Maybe there’s a way to salvage this mess after all. Do you think Feruzi would introduce me to this Captain of hers?”
Ukele made a face. “I don’t think she likes you very much. She’s always so uptight. Not a drop of fun in her veins at all.”
“Not like you, I can see,” Drale purred, making his face relax into his most charming smile. “I can see I’m being terribly rude . . . you didn’t come down here to talk about her, after all.”
“I certainly did not.”
Drale’s smile widened and his eyelids drooped into a dangerous, sleepy look. “So what did you come here for?”
Ukele shrugged, artfully artless. “Oh, I don’t know. I was bored. There’s nothing for me to do.”
“Oh? Well, perhaps I can help you with that.” Ukele squeaked as Drale swept an arm around her, jerking her against his body. He forced her head back and crushed her mouth with his own, slimy tongue wriggling ferociously. “There’s a nice girl,” he hissed, releasing her mouth to yank at her clothing. “You know how to show your appreciation, don’t you . . .”
Ukele’s mind was blank with panic. She was just teasing, amusing herself as always . . . did he really imagine he could just have her? HER?! She started to struggle, kicking, shoving at him with her arms. Drale grabbed her wrists and twisted them around behind her. She bit him.
“Ouch! So you like it rough, then?” Ukele’s face mashed against the table as he flipped her over. She felt the air on her backside and realized she was now fully exposed. Arcing her back, she inhaled brutally, preparing to scream the place down. Then, the thought came that if she did scream, Feruzi would come running and find her like this. Humiliation choked her and the breath fled in gasps of rage and pain as Drale rutted away on top of her, grunting like a pig.
“Nice little filly you are,” he muttered, giving her a final grope before he began throwing on his clothes. “Nothing like a good hard ride to take a man’s mind off his troubles.”
At least he spared her the necessity of thinking of something to say by sauntering off. Creeping like a mouse that fears a cat in every shadow, Ukele escaped to her room and locked the door, wishing she had furniture to pile in front of it.